How far would you go to resurrect someone? In Paranormasight, this moral dilemma forms the cornerstone of its various characters’ driving motivations. When playing through it, the game feels like the J-Horror love child between Ace Attorney, Fate/stay Night, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The word “love” is applied liberally here. The development team’s passion oozes from practically every facet of the project. With its strong story, colorful cast, and beautifully unique aesthetic, Paranormasight is an unforgettable experience.
Paranormasight takes place during the Showa era of Japan. As such, there is a very retro vibe to all of the characters and even the game itself. The various protagonists find themselves embroiled in a battle for the Rite of Resurrection. Using curse stones that appeared before them in a flash of resentful memories and murderous impulses, they can kill people with curses that reflect various superstitions from the Seven Mysteries of Honjo. The more people you kill with a curse stone, the more soul dregs it collects. Whoever has the most soul dregs at the end of it all will get to revive a dead person of their choosing. Thus begins a kill-or-be-killed battle royale across the Sumida city ward. Or so you might believe.
The large majority of the characters that you control lean towards being pacifists. Yakko and Tsutsumi both immediately start off unwilling to use their respective curse stones. Harue, on the other hand, is brimming with motivation. However, her private investigator Richter manages to convince her not to do so. The characters you control are reactive towards threats, rather than being a threat themselves. In fact, the plot actually revolves more around solving the mystery of the Rite of Resurrection, as well as the history of the ritual itself. The curse royale aspect of the game is a small portion of the plot. That’s perfectly fine, though! It would likely be alienating for some people to play as a curse-happy, murderous maniac, even if it is in the name of reviving somebody.
I particularly enjoyed Harue’s storyline for its more singular focus. Granted, without Richter’s presence, she might have quickly devolved into an aforementioned curse-happy, murderous maniac. Conversely, Yakko’s route was fairly weak. Some of the revelations in her story feel like they needed more time to develop, and Mio was a far more interesting character. Understandably though, there is very little time for the numerous plot threads to have ample breathing room. The game is fairly short, despite how complicated some of the storylines are. It proceeds at a fairly fast-paced tempo. And so, the game utilizes humor to prevent the player from becoming exhausted at all of the twists or feeling like the game is too bleak. I personally enjoyed the jokes and quirkier characters. But some who want a more pure J-Horror game experience might want to keep that in mind going into it.
From a meta perspective, I really liked how it utilized its multiple protagonists. You have to actively move characters to locations for them to show up in another character’s route. This would then unlock a scene to advance the story. However, a downside of this is that when you get stuck, you get stuck. Which character needs to accomplish what action before you can continue with someone else’s route? It can really slow down your progress as you figure that out. The game using its basic functions, such as saving or adjusting the settings, as part of the story was fantastic too. In general, I appreciate games who use their medium in unique ways. NieR Automata is an example of one that pulls it off effectively. This mechanic works well in Paranormasight without feeling unnatural, thanks to its framing device. Wow, Square Enix!
The thing about Paranormasight that had originally caught my eye during the Nintendo Direct Square Enix unveiled it in was the visuals. The real-life Sumida Ward government collaborated with the development team on making sure the environments are accurate. And there is a wonderful watercolor-like aesthetic over all of the characters. Gen Kobayashi (The World Ends With You) did an amazing job at capturing such a wide range of emotion in everyone’s expressions. It’s a visually beautiful game, even if there is not too much going on due its genre. I especially enjoyed the retro TV filter look of the menu. There’s even a slight curve to the words, as if it’s recreating an old-fashioned TV!
One aspect of the game that had me occasionally raising my brow, though, was the music. It can ping-pong between fitting and goofy. Don’t get me wrong here. I think Hidenori Iwasaki (Chocobo Grand Prix) is a fantastic composer. The spooky tracks in the game all accentuate the vibe of the story. However, some characters have themes that feel kind of silly. For example, Tsutsumi and Erio, who are both police officers, have a theme reminiscent of 1980s procedural cop J-Dramas. Obviously, this is due to the game’s Showa influence. But it and similar Showa-inspired tracks stand out amidst the more modern horror ones. Not only are the mood shifts very sudden, but they don’t feel like they belong in the same game.
With a snappy script and some genuinely unnerving jump scares, Paranormasight is a very approachable J-Horror game. The slow process of turning around using a mouse on the PC was a great way to amplify the tension in a lot of scenes. Because it leans heavier into the mystery aspect of the horror-mystery genre, even players who are nervous about horror games can enjoy it. It is a beautifully crafted game that makes imaginative use of its medium. Clocking in at under 10 hours—with some of that time spent lost, idling, or just reading through its impressively detailed files—Paranormasight is a wonderful game for a lazy weekend.
Paranormasight is readily available for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC via Steam.
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